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The Young Architects Forum (YAF), a program of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the College of Fellows (COF), is organized to address issues of particular importance to recently licensed architects.

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Architects vs. Preservationists: Is there a disconnect between the fields? (Seeking responses now!)

  • 1.  Architects vs. Preservationists: Is there a disconnect between the fields? (Seeking responses now!)

    Posted 01-19-2020 16:11

    Note: This is a time sensitive post seeking responses now through April 2020.

    Hi all!

    I am currently developing my terminal project paper (similar to a thesis) for my M.S. in Historic Preservation degree. I have a background in architecture, and since I have taken preservation classes as a student of both fields, I have noticed something: there appears to be a disconnect between architects and preservationists in practice and in perception. For my paper, I am exploring the roots of this disconnect and how to combat it.

    Below are some prompts to help you respond, but this is not a formal survey and I will not be including any of your personal data in my final submission. Instead, I hope to garner a consensus from practicing professionals and students alike that will either affirm or contradict my initial perception. I have avoided defining my interpretation of this disconnect so as not to influence anyone's response. 

    • What is your position/profession/background? (for POV context)
    • Do you think there is a disconnect between architects and preservationists that impacts the efficacy and success of their interdisciplinary interactions in practice?
      1. What do you think are the causes of this disconnect?
    • Do you think that architects and preservationists hold stereotypical assumptions about the other field that subsequently impacts their interdisciplinary communications and negotiations in practice?
      1. Can you summarize these assumptions as you believe they are held?
    • What do you think can be done to attain more productive interdisciplinary communication between architects and preservationists as it relates to the practice of preservation?

    I encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences here. Whether you have been on a project team, acted as a consultant, or are currently a student, I am interested in your opinions. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond to this post! (It would be great if you could share it with others as well!) I hope to produce a paper that young practitioners of both fields will find useful, but I can't do that without well-rounded input. I really appreciate any and all contributions! Thank you!

    Best,

    Skyla

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    Skyla Kapri Leavitt
    University of Oregon | College of Design
    Master of Architecture | 2020
    M.S. in Historic Preservation | 2020
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  • 2.  RE: Architects vs. Preservationists: Is there a disconnect between the fields? (Seeking responses now!)

    Posted 01-20-2020 21:36
    Ms. Leavitt:

    You assume group members share your predicate conclusion - that there IS in fact a demonstrable disconnect [between Architects and Preservationists].  However, you do not set forth the underlying reasoning, or proof (or reference to proof) for that proposition.  I do not see how one can provide a meaningful response with input that would be 'usable' by you as part of an objective analysis (and somehow folded into a thesis dissertation) unless you first explain how you arrived at the conclusion(s) you wish others to accept.  You say input you receive will not be incorporated into the thesis.  Generally a thesis is fact-based and would footnote and include the input/information upon which the author relies - so that it does not simply become an undocumented/unsupported opinion letter.

    As a start, with respect to your initial assumption, I would question whether (in practice) what percentage/proportion of preservationists are architects, or trained in architecture - and are thus living a double life (and so could not be any more intimately connected to both disciplines).  One of the attributes of well-educated and broadly experienced architects (little A) is a deep appreciation of historic design and construction -  both aesthetic and substantive aspects- and the inherent value of preservation.  With that in mind, I have some reticence in buying into the position you take in advance of accumulating the broad input you now seek.

    Your proposition may be entirely supportable, but without providing others the basis for it, you leave readers floating in the ether.  Is the proposition simply your personal impression - or something you have arrived at after research, study and debate with others more experienced in both fields?

    Respectfully,
    Howard

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    Howard I. Littman, AIA, Emeritus
    Forensic Architect, Expert Witness
    Agoura Hills, CA
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  • 3.  RE: Architects vs. Preservationists: Is there a disconnect between the fields? (Seeking responses now!)

    Posted 01-21-2020 18:34
    Dear Skyla,

    Your question elicited the above response from Howard Littman because you do not define what you mean by "preservationist." I would guess that you have observed differences based on disciplinary boundaries, but that is not clear. If you are more precise about whose values your study is examining, it will aid your selection of participants whose responses will inform your question.

    With best wishes,

    Julia Robinson, PhD, FAIA
    Professor, School of Architecture
    University of Minnesot

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    Julia Robinson FAIA
    Minneapolis MN
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  • 4.  RE: Architects vs. Preservationists: Is there a disconnect between the fields? (Seeking responses now!)

    Posted 18 days ago
    Hi All,

    I want to deeply thank everyone that responded for the time, energy, and thought that went into sharing your opinions, whether on this thread or privately with me. If you reached out to me directly, I apologize if I have not had a chance to get back to you--the amount of responses I got was overwhelming, far more than I could ever have hoped for. I am of course very appreciative, but it has also been a lot to keep up with!

    In the spring I look forward to sharing my project with all of you; I think the amount of responses I have received is evidence of how important this conversation is to have and be aware of, among all of the other issues these fields face. Your feedback will help me present a well-rounded discussion of these issues, one that will continue to evolve over time with changes in our fields, hopefully for the better.

    Sincerely, thank you.

    Best,
    Skyla

    ------------------------------
    Skyla Kapri Leavitt
    University of Oregon | College of Design
    Master of Architecture | 2020
    M.S. in Historic Preservation | 2020
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Architects vs. Preservationists: Is there a disconnect between the fields? (Seeking responses now!)

    Posted 17 days ago
    Hi Skyla - This topic is something that we're going to explore on one of our panels at the Facades+ conference in NY in April. So I'll have to wait to hear what they have to say. Meanwhile, please take a look at the two case studies which you may find relevant: 

    Adaptive Reuse Challenges in NYC Historic Icons

    Meeting technical challenges in preserving Landmarked facades, two firms create respectful but purposefully non-contextual, glittering glass updates to an 1898 sugar factory (10 Jay St. in Dumbo) and 1929's historic Tammany Hall in Union Square. Moderator: Françoise Bollack



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    Susan Kramer
    Special Events Coordinator
    CE|STRONG
    New York NY
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